The Power of Hope: How Peer Services Provide Living Examples of Recovery

Erin "Wesa" Arthur is a PSC III Substance Abuse Specialist at Telecare’s Santa Maria ACT program.

Wesa specializes in addiction and co-occurring conditions among members and helps them through psychoeducation, assists in detox treatment, and conducts general case management. She uses harm reduction, the RCCS, and shares her story to instill hope.

"That is why I am so passionate about recovery and the work that I do—I’ve been there," said Wesa. "I have 28 years of sobriety and I am living with a mental illness and co-occurring disorders. I think that it helps clients when I open up with them about my own experiences."

Having the ability to have the challenging conversation surrounding substance use in a non-judgmental fashion is key for building trust and hope among our clients. "I think there is so much doubt that many people who are struggling with co-occurring disorders face and that it is something that is destined to hinder them, and that’s not true," Wesa said. "Like anything in recovery, it’s a process and it’s unique to every individual."

This year, Telecare has been expanding and improving the way we inform our staff about co-occurring disorders. With our online learning portal, we are now able to offer staff training sessions on substance use that they can access at any time to help with their understanding of dual diagnosis among clients and how to start conversations around these topics. More than 70% of Telecare programs successfully completed COEG facilitator training and launched COEG groups for the people they serve.

Wesa had the opportunity to share her own experiences when COEG was first being developed. "I feel so strongly that until someone is clean and sober, it’s extremely difficult to treat the psychiatric disorder,” she said. "Substance use can have such an impact on mental health symptoms. To provide adequate treatment for people who have a co-occurring disorder, you have to take the time to understand how the two are affected by one another."

Today, Wesa continues her interest in psychology and writes about her experience. Her recovery journey is a reminder to those she works with that anything is possible.

"People gave up on me when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I proved them wrong," she said. "The thing I love is being able to instill hope and show them by example that anything is possible. And I love the clients. I absolutely love the clients we serve."